One cannot ask for metaphorical pears of peace from the elm tree that has always given war. It can already be said with all the letters: Obama has failed. His carefully calculated agenda of peace for Israelis and Palestinians has self-destructed. The Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, has not been able to accept the latest and most generous U.S. offer, one that only pretended to buy time for the negotiation. This deal included only 90 days more of freezing construction in the colonies in exchange for an entire fleet of invisible bombers and guarantees of support in the international organizations to avoid acknowledgment of the Palestinian state. If the radical Israeli right rejects the gifts of their North American friend and ally (because they cannot cede even a few months in their impulsive expansion across Palestinian territory), we can easily imagine what their attitude towards the substantive issues will be.
During 22 months of negotiations, the North Americans had prepared the direct negotiations that should have led to peace and the creation of a Palestinian state. Obama named former senator George Mitchell (an authentic expert in difficult negotiations) as a special correspondent to sit the Israelis and Palestinians down face to face. First, he paved the way for the Arab and Muslim opinion. He activated the idea, also promoted by Bush, of the two states living in peace and security alongside one another, and forced Netanyahu to adopt it. He started indirect negotiations for proximity in preparation for the final. Finally, he insisted, and it would be the point where the damage has been produced, that Israel freeze all construction in the colonies in Palestinian territory (something that Netanyahu accepted for 10 months), with the exception of Jerusalem. Also on the table are certain constructions already in process, where there was not any way to achieve freezing.
To say that Obama had failed does not mean that he will fail forever. But it does mean that now he will have to redo his plans. Hillary Clinton has taken the minutes in a solemn speech given this past Friday in Washington, where she has expressed her “deep frustration.” The speech flowed smoothly, due to Israeli intransigence toward the Palestinian side. It reiterates Washington’s rejection of the illegal construction on Palestinian territory, the position “that has not changed and will not change.” It also rejects a purely Palestinian economy, without a state sovereign, which is exactly where Netanyahu would like to get to. The biggest of the paradoxes is the speed with which the Palestinian Authority is advancing in the direction of creating the Palestinian state, something that Prime Minister Salam Fayad wants to achieve in August of 2011. The increases of security, the operation of the services to the public and the growing economy have led the World Bank to indicate that the authority is “well positioned for the establishment of a state at any point in the near future.”
While Palestine advances, Israel backs down and isolates itself. Uruguay, Argentina and Brazil have just recognized the Palestinian State. A group of 26 ex-Prime Ministers and high-ranking Europeans of the first level, among them Helmut Schmidt, Felipe Gonzalez and Javier Solana, have asked the European Union that it postpone all improvement in relations with Israel, as long as it doesn’t produce the freezing of settlement construction.
The special envoy Mitchell intends to revive a new series of indirect negotiations this week. However much you try, it is clear that the agenda has remained vacant. Netanyahu is to continue undaunted, if possible, until the U.S. presidential campaign of 2012. For the Palestinians it is the moment to look for acknowledgement of their state from the UN, as it hasn’t been possible to do so at the negotiation table. Obama will take all the pressure to cut up the pace, if necessary using the veto in the Security Council. But the Palestinians have a last-ditch push: Dissolve the Palestinian Authority and demand that Israel should be responsible for Gaza and the West Bank. It will be the moment Defense Minister Ehud Barak has defined as a dilemma: If there are not two States then there will be one, but with Israeli apartheid. No one in Israel, nor the U.S. Democrats, can imagine a bi-national state in which all citizens, Israelis and Palestinians, are equal and the Arab parties end up being the majority for purely demographic reasons. The Israeli right is happy with Obama's failure, but the Israelis need a Palestinian state to ensure their own future.